Seven Weird Facts About Screws

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Screws are almost certainly holding down, holding up, and holding together a lot of things around you as you read this. It could be a custom fastener in the walls, undersized screws in a plastic sheaf, or micro screws in your smartphone: but they’re everywhere. Here are all the weird facts about screws that you never knew:

They Were Not Originally Made to Fasten Things

The first application of screws was to extract oils from olives and grapes. It is believed that a Greek named Archytas, the founder of mechanics, was the inventor of the screw. They were being used for this sort of application as early as 200BC.

The Next Use for Screws Wasn?t to Fasten Things, Either

The next custom screw options were invented, probably by Archimedes, for devices that raised water. These screw-powered constructs were used to get the bilge water out of ships or to irrigate fields. The Romans used the screw principle later to mine drainage ditches.

Early Screws were Genuinely Custom Fasteners

Imagine one of today?s tiny undersized screws being made by hand. It?s had to believe anyone would have the patience to sit down and do that, yet that?s how all screws used to be constructed. Craftsmen would painstakingly carve each one, and the quality of the thread depending entirely upon the skill of the craftsman.

Lathe-Carved Screws Arrived Just Before the American Revolution

It was finally Jesse Ramsden, in 1770, who figured out how to use a lathe for screw cutting. Standardized sizing systems had already been introduced in 1760, but is was the lathe that made it possible to do this consistently. This allowed screws to finally be used for a instruments that needed precision and exactness, like micrometers.

Precision Screws Allowed the Invention of the Steam Engine

Without precision screws, you couldn?t have precision instruments like surveyors instruments. Without those, you couldn?t get canals, railroad tracks, steam engines, or machines tools. Precision sizes didn?t become fully standardized until 1928.

We?ve Moved Far Beyond Basic Standardization

The standard measurements for screws reveal their outer diameter and the threads-per-inch, or tpi. But modern scientific and precision medical instruments, not to mention electronics and musical instruments, require all kinds of micro fasteners and custom screws.

You also have to take into account the screw?s pitch diameter, which affects how strong the screw will be. Even an undersized screw can be effective for holding, for example, plastics if the pitch is right and the tiny screws are made to order for the job.

Screws are Bigger Business Than You Might Think

Right now, 131,949 people are working to design, make, and sell screws, nuts, and bolts in the United States, and screws are a $30 billion industry. A screw manufacturer needs all kinds of people to make custom shoulder bolts, miniature screws, undersized screws, and micro fasteners, to name a few!

The screw is so essential and ubiquitous that we barely think about it; yet we’re always depending on them to hold nearly everything together.

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